Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 26, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton's Intervention at the UN Today / UN Resolution 1325
    • Secretary Clinton's Bilateral with the Austrian Foreign Minister
    • Interagency Team attending 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • HAITI
    • Cholera Outbreak
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Private Security Contractors / President Karzai
  • HAITI
    • Reconstruction / Assistance / $1.5 Billion Supplemental
  • IRAN
    • U.S. Reviews Information on Groups and Individuals on Terrorism List on a Regular Basis
    • Bushehr Reactor
  • SUDAN
    • Meetings re. Referenda on Southern Sudan and Abyei / Gration Travel
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Continues Contacts with the Parties / Settlements
  • VENEZUELA
    • Expropriation of Private Business in Venezuela
  • BURMA
    • Cyclone / Offer of Assistance
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Issues on Succession
  • INDIA
    • Secretary Clinton Has Been to India, Has Engaged Indian Officials to Help Prepare for President Obama's Trip to India Early Next Month
  • SYRIA/LEBANON
    • Syrian Rhetoric Has Had a Destabilizing Effect on Lebanon and the Region
  • MISCELLANOUS
    • California Marijuana Initiative
  • IRAQ
    • Wikileaks


TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Well, continuing on in other parts of the world, you’ll see shortly the transcript of the Secretary’s intervention this morning in New York as the UN marked the 10th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325. In her remarks, the Secretary outlined the four pillars of the U.S. strategy in recognizing and supporting the essential role that women play in all aspects of peace and security, including promoting greater participation by women in government and playing an increasingly significant role in preventing conflict and instability, focusing on relief and recovery; ensuring that all members of society, but particularly women, have access to basic survival requirements; helping to make sure that women and children are protected from widespread violence that helps prevent conflict and instability; and then integrating the interests of women and gender considerations into long-term U.S. programs in conflict-affected areas.

On the margins of today’s meeting, the Secretary had a bilateral with Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger. Today is Austria National Day. But they talked about law enforcement cooperation and regional security as well.

Also going on in Nagoya, Japan --

QUESTION: Wait a second. Just on --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just on –

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s not just Austrian National Day, is it? It’s something else today that’s a big deal, no? It even came up. Your boss – you’re forgetting your boss’s birthday?

MR. CROWLEY: No, we already – we highlighted that fact before the Associated Press came into the room.

QUESTION: Oh, you did?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we did. (Laughter.) We also don’t talk about it.

QUESTION: Is it a holiday for you?

MR. CROWLEY: Huh? (Laughter.)

But in Nagoya, Japan you have the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The high-level segment of the meeting is taking place over the next three days, and the United States has sent a strong interagency team to participate in the convention led by Assistant Secretary for Oceans, International Environment, and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, but including participation from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior, NOAA, USAID, and the Patent and Trademark Office. But we continue to work with the parties developing a practical, workable regime on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources that fall under the convention, to emphasize science-based decision making in all aspects of biodiversity conservation, and to develop ambitious yet measurable and achievable post-2010 strategies.

And finally before taking your questions, we just continue our focus on the situation in Haiti. We do believe that the pace of outbreak of the cholera epidemic has modified. There are confirmed, as of this point, 259 deaths and 3,342 total patients. But we continue to work both with the Government of Haiti and our national agencies and international partners to provide a variety of assistance to the government to strengthen its ability to minimize the potential for this disease.

QUESTION: Is that – a real quick follow-up. What does “modified” mean? The pace has modified?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. What?

QUESTION: You said the pace of the cholera epidemic was modified.

MR. CROWLEY: Moderated. I’m sorry. Moderated.

QUESTION: Moderated.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, which gives us some encouragement, but obviously there’s still considerable danger once cholera makes its way into a fragile society like Haiti.

QUESTION: P.J., I’m wondering if there’s any update on the talks between the U.S. and other international officials and Karzai and his government about the ban on private contractors – security contractors.

MR. CROWLEY: We continue to work with the government on a path forward that both supports the decree and at the same time makes sure that critical projects can continue to move forward. It is absolutely appropriate that the Government of Afghanistan be able to regulate private security contractors. It is our long-term goal for Afghanistan to take responsibility for its own security. We completely support what the president is trying to do. But this is still a work in progress.

QUESTION: And what do you make of the – of President Karzai’s rant yesterday about the negative influence and impact of the West in Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the president has been focused on this for some time. He --

QUESTION: Which president?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, President Karzai. He has in a number of interactions with U.S. officials, including Secretary Clinton, talked about the impact that these operations have on the Afghan people and various incidents that have taken place where Afghan citizens have been killed or injured. We completely understand and support what the president is trying to do. This has an impact on the Afghan people and it has an impact on Afghan attitudes towards the efforts of the international community and the United States to provide security and long-term prosperity to Afghanistan.

So just to reiterate again, we understand and are completely supportive of what President Karzai is trying to do, and we’re trying to help him understand that we have to have a path forward that gains greater visibility. Regulation over these contractors affects the transition from reliance on contractors to a reliance on indigenous security forces but at the same time allows important operations to continue. That is something we’re trying to do. We think that there is a solution that is achievable that can balance these requirements, and that’s what we’re working with the government on.

QUESTION: Are you – in your tweet on Saturday, you talked about the Secretary saying – I think it was a joint plan – coming up with a joint plan with the Afghans to figure out how to move forward. Has the U.S. actually put anything specific on the table as far as a plan to get to exactly what you’re talking about? And if so, what is it? How can you balance these two competing requirements?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think we are supportive of a transition where today there is a significant reliance on private security contractors because there is a gap between the security needs in Afghanistan and the availability and capability of Afghan National Security Forces. The issue is how do we get from here to there. What is the path forward and what is the length of time required to make an effective transition? That’s what we’re talking about. It’s --

QUESTION: So have you made specific proposals about what that path is? And if so, are the Afghans engaging with you on those specific proposals?

MR. CROWLEY: We are in discussion with the Afghan Government. We have shared some ideas with President Karzai and his team. We are working through those ideas and we want to get to a place where we can best fulfill the objective – the sovereign objective of the president and his decree.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: India is having a large number of developmental projects inside Afghanistan and they depend on --

MR. CROWLEY: Start again, Lalit?

QUESTION: India is having a large number of developmental projects inside Afghanistan and they depend on private securities for the protection. Are you having any talks with the Indian authorities on this issue? Are any other countries coordinating with them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, go back to Sunday. There was a broad meeting, because this is an issue that does potentially affect the United States and our development partners and it also affects the international operations of many other countries that have a presence in Afghanistan. So this is a complex, multifaceted challenge, but not just the United States, other countries likewise rely on private security contractors to secure these operations. And as the international community together with the United States, we’re trying to find a sustainable path forward under the leadership of the Afghan Government.

QUESTION: And following on Matt’s question, what kind of relationship you have now with President Karzai and how is it different from the previous administration when it was very smooth, no public --

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t characterize the difference between now and then. I wasn’t here then. President Karzai is the president of a sovereign country. Our strategy is in support of his government and working with his government to help the people of Afghanistan. We have an effective relationship with President Karzai. The Secretary talks to President Karzai on a regular basis. As we indicated, she was in contact with him on Saturday as part of one of her regularly scheduled calls with him.

We are – he is a partner. We are working closely with he and his government to improve the security of the country. General Petraeus and Ambassador Eikenberry meet with him on a regular basis. So I would describe our relationship as very solid and working to fulfill our mutual interests.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Josh.

QUESTION: Thanks. On Haiti?

MR. CROWLEY: On Haiti.

QUESTION: Tomorrow will mark the three-month anniversary since President Obama signed the supplemental spending bill which appropriated $1.15 billion for Haiti reconstruction and recovery. As of last week, none of that money had been sent to Haiti as the State Department and Congress discussed the implementation plan. I’m wondering if you can give us an update. Has any of that money been disbursed? And if not, why not?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have allocated 1.15 billion in assistance, as you just mentioned. That includes assistance from DOD as well as 660 million in emergency relief provided by USAID. Much of that money has already been dispensed, but we have money standing by for longer-term projects. As we have mentioned, as you saw last month, when the – during the UN General Assembly, there was a meeting hosted or led by Prime Minister Bellerive and former President Clinton of the Haiti Reconstruction Commission going through systematically the critical projects for – important to Haiti’s future. During the course of last month’s UN General Assembly, there were announcements in terms of cooperation between the United States and France to rebuild a hospital in Haiti. There was an announcement of a joint venture led by a South Korean conglomerate that was going to lead to the development of an industrial park and create some further jobs. As the Haiti Reconstruction Commission validates specific projects under the Haiti-led plan, the money is already there to support these projects.

So this is part of our effort working integrally in the international community, working with the Haitian Government for a limited period of time. The money will be dispensed as specific projects are validated by the Haitian Government and ready for construction. That’s the – so the money has been put aside. The money is there as – and remember, we’re also balancing Haiti’s immediate needs with Haiti’s long-term needs. So the money is there. Some of it’s been spent and some of it’s standing by for further decisions by the Haiti Reconstruction Commission.

QUESTION: I understand. Just to be clear, I understand there’s been a lot of money spent in Haiti, U.S. Government aid for emergency relief. But specifically regarding this pot of 1.15 billion, it was my understanding that the State Department implementation plan was still being discussed with Congress. You’re saying that money has been dispensed from that pool despite that those discussions are still going on? And can you tell us how much?

MR. CROWLEY: Josh, I’ll – I don’t have that kind of detail here at the podium. I’ll be happy to go through it with you separately.

QUESTION: Iran-related. For the past hour, a group – a handful of people and members of the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq have been demonstrating outside this building.

MR. CROWLEY: Start again? I missed the early part of the – for the last hour --

QUESTION: For the last hour --

MR. CROWLEY: -- a group --

QUESTION: -- a group of (inaudible) – a group of people (inaudible) the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the MEK, have been demonstrating outside this building, demanding to be de-listed from the group of countries – terrorist groups. Is that something the State Department is considering, reconsidering?

MR. CROWLEY: We review information on a regular basis regarding groups and individuals that are on our terrorism list. That is an ongoing process. I know of no particular initiative right now relative to that group.

QUESTION: Staying on Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: All right. Do you have any thoughts, concerns, angry statements to make about the latest developments at Bushehr?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – there’s nothing new here. We recognize that the Bushehr reactor is designed to provide civilian nuclear power and we do not view it as a proliferation risk because it is under IAEA safeguards and because Russia is providing both the needed fuel and then taking back the spent nuclear fuel, which would be the principal source of our proliferation concerns.

What is interesting about Bushehr is that Iran does not need an indigenous enrichment capability to generate civilian nuclear energy if its intentions are purely peaceful. And Russia’s supply of fuel, we think, is a model that Iran should follow in its ambition for civilian nuclear energy.

But this should not be confused with our ongoing and the world’s fundamental concerns about Iran’s violations of international nuclear obligations, particularly in pursuit of uranium enrichment. Iran says it wants to have full control of a fuel cycle to obtain self-sufficiency, but the fact is that Iran does not have sufficient uranium reserves in the country to meet its daily goal. So this is precisely the kind of international cooperation that we think is appropriate for Iran and it undercuts Iran’s rationale for why it needs to pursue its own enrichment capability.

QUESTION: Sudan. Former South African President Mbeki said in Khartoum that these talks that General Gration referred to last week on Abyei that were to take place this week are not going to take place, or that they’ve been delayed. I’m wondering if you have any information on that. And it doesn’t seem as though despite this surge, the diplomatic surge that is underway in Sudan, that you’re getting anywhere in bringing them together on this one element.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think – I mean, we acknowledged yesterday that the – we expected the talks would begin in Khartoum and then would move at a point to Addis Ababa. They were originally scheduled to start tomorrow in Addis Ababa. General Gration is leaving for the region tonight. Ambassador Princeton Lyman remains in the region and engaged with the parties. This remains a challenge. We need to have the parties come together urgently if we are going to have the referenda on Abyei and South Sudan occur on time in early January.

At the behest of the parties, former President Mbeki will be leading this next round of discussions. They’ll be about Abyei, but also about the full basket of CPA obligations. The parties do not have any time to waste.

QUESTION: But do you think that – I mean, it sounds as though, compared to what Ambassador – Under Secretary Carson said at the UN when they came – where there was an idea that they had a framework for discussing this, it seems as though even the framework is falling apart. I mean, have you made – is, in fact, the situation worse than it was at the beginning – at the end of September?

MR. CROWLEY: No, it’s – I mean, it’s not worse. We’ve had constructive discussions. There are particular elements that the parties have to agree to, both in the context of Abyei and in the context of the referendum on South Sudan. At the present time, while they have been talking about the specifics of what is – what needs to be done, they have not yet arrived at firm decisions that will allow the process to move forward.

But we had nine days, I believe, of intensive discussions in Addis Ababa a couple of weeks ago. They do need to come back together. The sooner we can resume these discussions on a formal basis, I believe, with former President Mbeki in Khartoum, with Princeton Lyman in Khartoum, with others, there are discussions going on whether it’s a formal convening of the Addis meeting at this point, though we continue to talk to the parties. We have to come to agreement soon, and that’s why General Gration is returning to the region.

QUESTION: Are you speaking – speaking of frameworks perhaps falling apart in discussions going on --

MR. CROWLEY: I wasn’t speaking of frameworks falling apart.

QUESTION: Not leading anywhere – but what’s new on the Middle East peace talks, if anything?

MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing specific to report to you. We continue our contacts with the parties, and I don’t have anything to report.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said the meetings would start in Juba. Today, now you are saying in Khartoum.

MR. CROWLEY: No, no. If I said Juba, I was in error. In Khartoum.

QUESTION: It’s in Khartoum?

MR. CROWLEY: And then we’ll move to Addis under the present plan.

QUESTION: On the peace process, President Abbas has said yesterday that Israel has been taking unilateral steps for decades by building settlements. So the Palestinians might take one of their own, asking the United Nations to recognize their independent state.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think our position has been pretty clear. We continue to encourage the parties to avoid unilateral steps on one side of the ledger or the other. Our position on settlements has not changed, and we continue to encourage the parties to resume direct negotiations as the only mechanism to resolve these myriad of issues.

David.

QUESTION: P.J., the Venezuelan president announced the expropriation of the local affiliate of Owens-Illinois, a glass company. He says he has a list of other companies to expropriate. Any reaction to that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, statements are one thing. We’ll see what actual actions take place. But we would expect Venezuela to provide prompt, adequate, and effective compensation for any expropriation of the investments of Owens-Illinois in accordance with international law or any other private business doing – present in Venezuela.

Lalit.

QUESTION: On Burma, what kind of assistance you are offering to the Burmese authority after the cyclone? And have they accepted any U.S. aid?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as you recall, the last time that Burma suffered a major natural disaster, the United States offered assistance, and eventually, Burma accepted that assistance. We’ve made the same offer once again, depending on the impact of the cyclone.

QUESTION: Have they accepted it? Have – what’s the response to --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that they’ve accepted or responded at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: P.J., can you discuss a bit about the agenda for Secretary Clinton’s meeting with President Lee Myung-bak in Hanoi? Also, do you have –

MR. CROWLEY: We just gave you a full briefing. I’ve got nothing to add to what Kurt Campbell said.

QUESTION: Also, do you have any comment on the report that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s first son, Kim Jong-nam, said he did not want to take over North Korea because North Korea will soon collapse.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, Kurt was asked about issues of succession, and I’ve got nothing to add.

QUESTION: May I --

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: I just wanted to – sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify my question earlier with Mr. Campbell, what was – that was that to many people – when we talk about Asia, we talk only about China, Korea, Japan, frequently, but India is also in Asia. Many people are questioning, especially here, think tanks, and also Indian American community – and when she travels to all these nations, one, why India was not added to the list? And second, finally –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, wait.

QUESTION: India is also emerging –

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal --

QUESTION: -- power and in the – in Asia.

MR. CROWLEY: Wait. Goyal, the President is going to India early next month. The Secretary has been to India and has engaged Indian officials to help prepare for the President’s trip. Given the competing major fora that are underway here, the Secretary has her agenda; she will not join the President in India, but others will be in his delegation.

But this is characteristic of our engagement where, in the Asia-Pacific region, in the coming days, you’ll have the President there, the Secretary there, the Deputy Secretary there, and that just gives you a sense of the breadth of the issues that we are wrestling with in the region.

Michel.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Syrian President Bashar Asad has said that the U.S. is creating chaos in every place it entered and he mentioned Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon. Do you have anything on that?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let us just say that we understand that – I mean, put it this way – let me start again. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Retake.

MR. CROWLEY: Retake. President Asad is within his rights to provide his critique. Let me do the same. Recent Syrian behavior and rhetoric has had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon and the region, has contributed to recent tensions. We understand that certain actors within and outside Lebanon, including Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, may believe they stand to gain by escalating sectarian tensions in an attempt to assert their own authority over Lebanon.

For example, Syria continues to transfer weapons to Hezbollah and recently issued arrest warrants for 33 Lebanese and foreign nationals, including the Lebanese Government state prosecutor and head of the national police. These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. So if the issue is who is playing a more constructive role in the region, we stand by our pledge to support a sovereign, stable, and independent Lebanon, the strong Lebanese institutions, as the only way to realize the best interests of the Lebanese people and the region as a whole. We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region and we believe that Syria is not.

QUESTION: Well, P.J., much as they were – or much as they express concern about the Arizona immigration law, there are a bunch of Latin American leaders who are expressing some very serious concerns about this legalized marijuana initiative in California and the impact it will have on – or the impact it may have on U.S. national drug policy. I recognize this isn’t really a State Department issue, per se, but I’m wondering if you have heard directly from people – from Latin American leaders, concerns about this, and I’m also wondering how you – the Federal Government might square this, particularly as it relates to foreign policy – if the – how you might square the passage, potential passage of this referendum with your national strategy.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s – I don’t have any marijuana guidance in my book. But let us – I mean, we understand that a number of countries in the region are watching the developments on the California ballot initiative. Let’s not get ahead of the American voters or the California voters in terms of what is decided next week. And the latest I’ve read on it, it’s kind of a toss-up. So we understand it’s an issue of concern. We understand, obviously, that what is being proposed for California may be in conflict with federal statute, and we’ll work through those issues depending on what happens next week.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my last one is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees today came out with a statement saying that the latest WikiLeaks disclosures show that the U.S. had knowledge of serious abuses and continue to turn people – by the Iraqis and continue to turn prisoners over to them and says that this may be a gross violation of international human rights law. I know that you talked yesterday about the investigation having to start with the Iraqis, but the High Commissioner is saying the U.S. also has an obligation to investigate. Is the U.S. ready to do this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would go back to statements I think that were also made by General George Casey yesterday disputing the idea that we, in any way, turned our back on what we saw. This is an issue that we talked regularly with the Iraqi Government, but at the same time, we have and are continuing to fulfill not only our international obligations, but our obligations to Iraq as a sovereign government. We have an agreement with Iraq where we have turned over responsibilities to Iraq as a sovereign government and these are more appropriate questions to direct to the sovereign Government of Iraq, not to the United States.

QUESTION: Well, but is the U.S. willing to consider opening an investigation into whether the transfer of prisoners to the Iraqis – not current transfers, but past transfers – with knowledge that they – of these abuses could be a violation of international law?

MR. CROWLEY: I will take a question as to the suggestion that our activities in recent years posed a potential violation. I think our lawyers would suggest it does not. But I’ll take that question. Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

DPB # 175

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